Crims and their clique turn Sydney into an open sewer
My grandmother is 92 years old and lives in public housing in Adelaide’s southern suburbs. She is a custodian of wonderful old Australian expressions and a woman of firm and earthy convictions. One of her convictions is that Sydney is basically a dump, “a den of iniquity” as she puts it, its harbour wasted on spivs, tarts, crooks and hookers. A morally-bankrupt dive which has never really shaken off its uncouth convict past, and where no-one of sound mind would choose to live.
I’m starting to think she might be on to something.
This might sound odd given that it’s barely a month since I penned a sweetheart’s letter to my adoptive home of 10 years by listing the 40 things I love about Sydney.
This column is about the one thing I really hate, and am hating more with each passing day. It’s not the roads, it’s not the cost of living, heaven forbid it’s not even the State Government. It’s Sydney’s out-of-control gangster culture, which in the past few months has gone from a relatively controlled background phenomenon to a full-blown cult of violence and vanity, where the authorities have been made to look like fools as the lawless increasingly act as they wish, egged on - most alarmingly - by apparently sane people who come over all giggly and start twirling their hair in the presence of drug-dealers, bikie leaders and stand-over men.
If ever a headline captured a moment in the history of a city it was the Bullets to Botox front page of The Tele last week.
Violence and vanity, written as large as possible, in an excellent 180 point tabloid headline.
The story told how, after being shot five times in the stomach and arm by a hitman who is still at large, Fadi Ibrahim had taken good care of himself while recuperating at the Royal North Shore Hospital with visits from his hairdresser, and even getting a botox treatment.
It’s nice to see that, even with the hectic pace of modern life, having your guts blown away by a masked gunman doesn’t become some cheap excuse for letting yourself go.
There has always been crime in Sydney - obviously enough, as in its European incarnation it is a city born from crime - and the rate and nature of crime has fluctuated since 1788 as it has in most other places.
There have been past outrages, such as the Milperra Massacre, which for audacity still eclipses the sickening bashing murder at Sydney Airport on a sunny Sunday afternoon earlier this year.
What has really changed is the extent to which criminals are feted, courted and built up into celebrities by otherwise intelligent and law-abiding people, the ease with which they can mix with the ostensibly civilised members of the crowd at our night spots, the pull that they can enjoy around town, the way in which they strut their stuff for the media as the police look on, utterly hopeless, under the leadership of the invisible Commissioner Andrew Scipione.
You could sort of see it coming in the recent history of this town with the way an outfit like the Bra Boys were given the full Hollywood treatment in their movie hagiography of the same name, narrated by none other than Russell Crowe, who in his irritating monotone plaintively and inaccurately described the code of honour which gives these plucky little Maroubra battlers a moral compass to usher them though life.
The flick failed to explain that while some of the Bra Boys choose to use their moral compass, others are simply too busy involving themselves with drugs, theft, or random and unprovoked assaults, such as the bashing of a bunch of off-duty cops at their Christmas party in Maroubra, which in this revisionist history becomes the night when an innocent bunch of kids decided to take a stand.
Whatever the truth was it didn’t stop the movie from becoming a terrific success, so much so that it helped launch a fashion line for the Abberton brothers, which proved hugely popular with that special category of Sydney-siders who affect a louche gangsta style, ostentatiously adjusting their balls through their Everlast tracksuit as they hang with da boyz, celtic tatts all the way up one arm…there are literally thousands of these people in Sydney.
It’s infected rugby league. Every bloke who’s been caught having a snakes in public, clocking their girlfriend, threatening a sponsor, almost of them affect this kind of cocky, roguish style, as do their supporters, who generally act, dress and speak the same way too.
And it’s not just blokes either, but the chicks who get off on hanging around them.
The story of actress Jodi Gordon stands as a cautionary tale for any young person with a bit of money and a sense of adventure who gets suckered into the superficial milieu of buffed hardmen and winds up making a mess of their life.
The truly puzzling thing about this cult of criminal celebrity is that, aside from the genuine hard nuts in the lawless inner circle, the people on the periphery often make a conscious choice to act dumber than they really are, by embracing this make-believe, hard-boiled style. In the Gordon case you have someone who is demonstrably talented, highly successful, and in what seemed to be a conventional relationship, and went and trashed it all for a walk on the wild side.
The crime scene in Sydney is now different from the Underbelly stuff in Melbourne, which was largely self-contained and often involved low-rent small-timers offing each other over minor quibbles.
No-one was going around pretending to be Carl Williams, or Roberta for that matter.
The mainstreaming of Sydney gangster chic is one thing but there are two other key differences from the Melbourne scene which are much more disturbing.
They go to public safety and public ambivalence.
When a decent man like truck driver Bob Knight can get shot dead by a stray bullet in our suburbs while working at night, and within seven days his death can be largely forgotten, you can draw only two conclusions.
One, that crime in Sydney is in no way self-contained. Two, that our ambivalence suggests that maybe Sydney is a den of iniquity after all.
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